So anyone who has been following me for the last year or so knows that I am new to this America thing.
We moved to LA in 2013 and so next week will be my second US-Thanksgiving (not to be confused with Canadian Thanksgiving in October, here) – and as with other holidays, I intend on jumping right into it. Thanksgiving, or at least American Thanksgiving, is a weird one for me: Unlike American-only holidays like MLK Jr Day or American Independence Day that we don’t celebrate in Canada, or shared non-country holidays like Xmas or Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving is a holiday that is both (1) separated by over a month of time, and (2) celebrated a bit differently. And as such, transitioning from an October-celebrated Thanksgiving to a November one (end of November!), with it’s Xmas-sy tones and Holiday movies, is new to me. Or newish.
That being said, I kind of like the celebration of Thanksgiving here in the US – I like the idea that everything stops (unless you work retail – shame on these companies!) for a day, that turns into a long weekend, and you just cook and eat and spend time with family. I am a very kitchen-and-family oriented person, as you can probably tell by my posts, after all. And being in LA, with a definite lack of blood-relations, I have extended “family” to friends – as well I should since friends are the family you get to choose and all that.
Anyway, this year, we’re hosting a little Thanksgiving dinner – so that means I am cooking, since the Boy isn’t even sure what a roaster is … or if we have one. This is challenging on a couple of fronts: (1) I am Canadian-Portuguese – Thanksgivings of my youth in Canada involved turkey, chicken, some red meat and a seafood dish followed by chocolate mousse and coffee – I am told that is not a proper Thanksgiving, and so must adjust; (2) The Boy is American, but only comments half-heartedly on food to serve on Thanksgiving, noting that “There are only 3 of us – why are you stressing?”; (3) I have a teeny kitchen with a poor oven.
So, where to get the tools and expertise I need? The internet of course!
Here are some of my favourite Thanksgiving inspiration videos from Youtube to get me started – comment below with any advice or videos of your own!
So I realize there are only 3 of us for Thanksgiving this year, but we need a turkey right? I think so. I have been keeping an eye out for smaller sized turkeys, but sso far, not much luck. For Canadian Thanksgiving we had a turkey breast that turned out amazing – but this time, we want to try a whole turkey. But there are questions of brining and defrosting and water baths and such which pile together to make a lot of confusion. I found this video pretty helpful to sort it all out:
After having chosen the correct turkey (grass fed! air chilled!) you have to …prepare it. So brine or not brine? Well first – make sure you’re bird isn’t already brined (spelling?) – some of them are, and they should say so on the bird itself. What is brining? Well, essentially, brining is adding a mixture of salt water and sometimes sugar to meat in order to make it moist. It works by plumping up the turkey so that it loses less moisture when it cooks through – for more of a technical explanation, here’s a good article on it. So now that your turkey is brined, has thawed out in the fridge for a couple of days and is now on your counter, getting ready for fixings, what now?
I am particularly interested in compound butter treatments for the turkey. Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube has a great one:
Cranberry compound butter? Yes please. Gordon Ramsey has a pretty great take on it too, here. Also, Williams-Sonoma has one here. Compound butters can be as easy as taking your full fatty unsalted butter, sticking it in a food processor and adding things you like – I have made chocolate compound butter, sage compound butter, and even garlic basil compound butter. The best part is – super simple, adds crust to the turkey as well as moistness and so so soooo much flavour. In addition to all this, I want to add some citrus – my Mom, in my youth, would always soak the turkey in slices of orange and lemon – this Canadian Thanksgiving past, I made a turkey breast that I soaked in orange slices and stuffed with pickled lemons (which are so so hard to find) and thyme. So as it’s chilling in the fridge, I will add the slices and allow them to penetrate. When it’s ready to cook, I’ll set my oven to 400F. Cook it at that high heat for 30 minutes or so, then turn the heat down to 350F for the rest of the cooking time. Cooking time itself varies by bird – here’s a chart from Trader Joe’s that may prove helpful:
Now that our bird is in the oven, let’s turn to some sides.
Potatoes. Yep, we’re starting with a staple. My favourite one as it turns out. Personally, I am a fan of the roasted, slightly crusty version of potatoes with herbs and olive oil and some roast onion and carrots and parsnips alongside. Over the years I have tried a few different types of roasting and such – as well as mashed, fried and scalloped. Generally, I chop things up pretty evenly and smallish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinle with salt, pepper, rosemary and sort of room-temp clumps of butter (don’t hate – butter makes everything better). Researching on Youtube this year, I have decided to try out this method from Food Tube:
Smashed roast potatoes? Yes please.
Mashed potatoes are the norm, according to the Boy, and my go-to recipe for a bowl of fluffy mashed taters is an adaptation of the Pioneer Woman’s recipe found here. This year, we’re opting for roast rather than mashed, but I am not ruling out some mashed sweet potatoes. Right? Right.
Carrots are another staple – I like to mix them in with the roast potatoes myself, but growing up my Mom made them with honey or sugar glaze – something The Boy likes a lot, even if I prefer more crunch. How about a compromise? Say Honey Roasted Carrots?
And what about stuffing? My impression is that stuffing is best when it’s actually not been stuffed in a bird. That is, it is cooked outside of the turkey – in a slow cooker, or a seperate roasting pan. This is still called stuffing … even though it is not stuffed anywhere … well anywhere but your mouth … that sounds wrong. Anyway, my Mother in Law (MiL) makes a stuffing by breaking up white bread into pieces, saturating it with butter and gravy and baking it. I like it – but I am not a huge fan of the white bread. Call me hipster, but I like my bread brown. I found a recipe for stuffing on Youtube with cranberries and wine, and with the little switch of brown for white bread, I think it might work out:
Mmm, Thanksgiving is looking even better …
So, after all this – anyone have room for dessert? Of course we do!
So there are a few staples with dessert: pie – apple, pumpkin and pecan. Not sure if there’s anything else – asides from whipping cream on everything. So let’s start with the basics: how to fix a prepared pie shell:
Good things, that – I usually just fret and gnash my teeth when my pie shell cracks. Now, I know better! Okay, so we have a pie shell, now what about the filling for it? The Boy hates pumpkin pie – not sure why since it’s pretty yum to me, but fair enough – for us, it’ll be apple or pecan for the holidays. Personally, I like to mix up desserts – give them new flavours or just, in most cases, make them more luxurious. Like how about this chocolate pecan pie:
That’s my kind of pecan pie! But what apple? Well, two pies seems like a lot, so I was thinking, maybe an apple tart? ooh, maybe an apple caramel tart – with vanilla bean ice cream? Yes. Yes please. Like this one:
I think that’s about my American Thanksgiving dinner – what will be on your plate next week?